The Bahraini government’s claim that Iran was directly involved in an oil pipeline explosion near the Bahraini capital of Manama is the latest sign of heightening tension in the Gulf region. Bahrain’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa said the blast was the latest example of a “terrorist act” under instructions from Tehran, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported. In a Twitter message, the minister also called the attack a “dangerous Iranian escalation aimed at terrorizing citizens and damaging the world’s oil industry.” The explosion forced Saudi Arabia to temporarily suspend pumping oil into Bahrain for security reasons.
The Iranian government refuted the allegations. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi called Manama’s claim “baseless and cheap,” adding that the “the time of playing such childish blame-games has come to an end.” He continued: “It seems the only thing that Bahraini officials have learned to do after any incident in the island is pinning the blame on Iran.”
Comment: It is not the first time that the government of Bahrain accuses the Islamic Republic of inciting violence and plotting attacks against the country. This year, Bahraini officials have repeatedly complained that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) is supporting groups that have attacked Bahraini security forces. In late March, for example, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior said it has dismantled an Iran-backed group that planned terrorist attacks in the island kingdom, including assassination of high-profile government officials. According to state-run Bahrain News Agency, 11 of the 14 individuals arrested were suspected of having received training in Iraq by the I.R.G.C. and Lebanese Hezbollah. The report added that the arrests were made following intelligence operations that tracked the suspects’ multiple trips to Iran. The Ministry of Interior further alleged that the group operated under the leadership of Murtadha Majeed Al Sindi and Qassim Abdullah Ali, two individual who reportedly live in Iran and are designated as terrorist by the Bahraini government.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry rejected the allegations.
Similarly, in early March, Bahraini authorities said they had arrested 25 members of an Iran-backed “terror cell” involved in recent attacks on the Bahraini security forces, including a deadly jail break in January. A statement released by the Bahraini government added that those arrested belonged to a 54-member group that went to Iran and Iraq to “receive training in the use of explosives and firearms at Revolutionary Guard camps."
In February, Bahrain had also announced the arrest of several individuals who had reportedly received military training in Iran and Iraq. “As part of the search and investigation that led to the foiling of the fleeing fugitives via the sea to Iran on February 9, a number of terror cells that were about to carry out terrorist plots have been dismantled through a comprehensive security plan,” Bahrain News Agency (BNA) had reported.
The reports of Iran’s connection with terrorist plots in Bahrain are also worrisome to the U.S. military as its Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain – a strategic location that helps the U.S. Navy to ensure the security of maritime activity in the region, support the fight on terrorism, and monitor Iran’s subversive activities across the Middle East.